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SMS (Text Message) English

SMS Text Messaging

mobile phone sms text messageSMS, or text message as it is known in England, stands for ‘Short Message Service’.

There is a belief that the frequent use of English in SMS messages is lowering standards of English amongst students in the UK. Some argue that since they spell a lot of words in a “special way” for mobile phone messages they start to forget the correct formal spelling.

On the other hand, when a student of English lives in the UK, in addition to the Standard English they normally learn from books and on English language courses, they are also exposed to other types of English such as slang, idioms and the language of phone messages or social media messages.

Text Message Abbreviations

Here are a few most common text message (SMS) abbreviations:

  • LOL = laugh out loud, it basically means “hahaha”text abbreviations
  • U = you…….(easy!)
  • 2mrow = tomorrow
  • L8R = later
  • GTG = got to go
  • TTYL – talk to you later

There are also words or phrases which are slightly more complex and advanced, for example “IIRC” stands for “if I recall correctly” and “AFAIK” stands for “as far as I know”. For a longer list of text message abbreviations, click here.

OK, so we have seen what text message English looks like and some of the common examples of it. However, what about the claims by some that it is lowering standards of literacy amongst native British students in the UK or ‘dumbing down’ literacy levels?

Well, in 2003 there was a BBC article about a 13 year old girl who submitted a school essay which was written entirely in text message English. One part of the essay reads:

” My smmr hols wr CWOT. B4, we used 2go2 NY 2C my bro, his GF & thr 3 :- kids FTF. ILNY, it’s a gr8 plc.”

shakespeareDo you understand this?

Well, if you don’t, that’s perfectly fine as William Shakespeare and Charles Dickens wouldn’t either!

On a more every day level you would not have studied this on any reputable English language course, so there is nothing to worry about. 

In Standard English the sentence above would read:

“My summer hols (short for holidays) were a complete waste of time. Before, we used to go to NY (New York) to see my brother, his girlfriend and their 3 kids face to face. I love New York, it’s a great place.”

To be honest, learning text message English is not that hard if you have an English friend or even if your teacher allocates a part of a lesson to it, especially if he/she gives a list of common abbreviations together with some examples of text message sentences.

text messagingIt’s not super-important as it won’t get you into university like IELTS will! Nor will it allow you to write a letter to an international English language newspaper or website to express your opinions on a topic you feel very strongly about. However, it will allow you to communicate with friends by mobile phone messages and perhaps, and more importantly, given the ever more regular use of social media (e.g. Facebook, Twitter) you will be able to communicate with friends or like-minded people around the globe.

Is it dumbing English standards down? This is open to debate, however, in my opinion it doesn’t really have any great threat to the English language because newspapers, official documents and educational courses all require the use of “good” English, and all students in the UK must do GCSE English (the obligatory English exam in Britain during secondary school). However, it can be convenient and fun! So have fun taking some time to learn it if you wish to whilst definitely not neglecting the far more useful and important Standard English!

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